McBurney included some Georgia higher court rulings, including one from 1850 saying: “The time with reference to which the constitutionality of an act of the general assembly is to be determined is the date of its passage, and, if it is unconstitutional, then it is forever void.”
He urged Georgia’s legislators to get back to work and pass an abortion law with the U.S. Supreme Court’s new ruling in mind. It will be more difficult this time, he ventured, because lawmakers will be operating in “the sharp glare of public attention.” This time, abortion laws “will carry real consequences for legislators and their constituents alike.”
The state is appealing the ruling.
I talked with two former higher court judges who are skeptical that McBurney’s reasoning will hold up under the somber gaze of the Georgia Supreme Court.
One (they did not want their names used) told me: “If there is a change in the judicial understanding of the Constitution — but not a change in the Constitution itself — then judicial decisions must be retroactive. If the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes a ‘new’ constitutional right, it was always there . . . It just took a while for judges to appreciate it.”
The former judge said Georgia case law allows some protection of “personal liberty,” which I gather is a legal cousin of privacy.
“Whether the constitutional protection of personal liberty also extends to abortion is an open question that has never been addressed (to my knowledge) by the Georgia appellate courts,” he said.
Very few Republican legislators want to refight this battle. Why would they? They won. Why have to have to buy more Motrin?
I called state Sen. Jen Jordan, a Democrat who recently lost a shot at the Attorney General’s office and who gave an emotional speech against the abortion bill in 2019.
“It was smart on McBurney’s part; he didn’t make a substantive ruling. He’s putting it back in the legislators’ laps,” she said. “I don’t understand the whining. OK, Republicans, pass it again. But there’s consternation on their part. I don’t think they have the appetite to bring it up again.”
Veteran state Rep. Sharon Cooper is a registered nurse and one of the few Republicans who voted against the bill. She agrees about the lack of appetite. She noted the bill barely passed her chamber. The House voted 92-78, one vote more than the needed 91 to pass.
She does not disagree with McBurney’s thought that 2019 vote was symbolic.
“I think some people voted that way because they thought Roe v. Wade would never be thrown out,” said Cooper. “It might be a different vote based on the reaction of the nation” after it was overturned.
To most people, abortion is a wrenching, emotional and nuanced subject with no simple Yes and No answers.
“If you polled Republican women, ‘Are you pro-life?’ they’d say ‘yes,’ “ Cooper told me. “But if you asked about the heartbeat (bill), some would say ‘no.’
Legislators also know Georgians are split on the matter, with more who oppose the heartbeat bill than support it.
The latest nationwide Gallup polling shows women by a clear majority — 61% to 33% — consider themselves pro-choice over pro-life. With men, it’s a virtual tie, with 48% pro-choice, 47% pro-life. Also, the older you get, the more you’re against abortion.
It makes sense. Women, whose lives change the most with a pregnancy, prefer to have a choice. Especially those in child-bearing years. Go figure!
I’ve always believed the question should go to a plebiscite of the population. Better yet, just women should vote.
Back in the day, the irascible, and conservative, radio talker Neal Boortz did not allow men to discuss abortion on his show. The reason was simple — they could not conceive.
This reminds me of a photo shot in 2019, with former state Sen. Renee Unterman, a Republican, posing with many of the 33 GOP men who helped her pass it. No other woman in that chamber voted for the measure.
Talk about a picture being worth a thousand words. Or a million.